Legislature hears about testing, vaccine
YATES COUNTY--It was reported to the Yates County Legislature Tuesday, Dec. 29 the Finger Lakes region of New York has been leading the state, behind only Mohawk Valley, in positivity rates for COVID. Yates County Health Director Deborah Minor also informed the legislature that while testing has been continuing to expand recently, as the vaccine dose supply increases locally, the health department will further shift their focus to the vaccine.
"...Not that testing isn't important, we only have so many resources, so I think the priority will be the vaccine," Minor said.
Minor also said regionally there are roughly 900 hospitalizations with a positivity rate of 12.3 percent.
Along with county resources being rerouted to focus on the vaccine, Minor mentioned other health organizations in the region are likely to make the same shift. Distribution of the vaccine locally has already begun.
As to who is eligible, Minor said front line workers such as nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, EMS workers, EMTs, funeral home directors and coroners will be first in line to receive the vaccine along with residents and employees at long term healthcare facilities.
"We continue to meet on a regular basis with the state Finger Lakes hub and they are providing as much information as they have regarding how we will roll this out and get the vaccine to everyone eligible as quickly as possible," Minor stated.
Vaccine security remains a priority to ensure those that need it get it first as multiple health providers throughout the region have already received vaccine shipments.
"Those receiving vaccines are under strict guidance as to who they can administer it to," Minor said.
Along with determining how to roll out the vaccine, Minor mentioned an effort will be placed into convincing those eligible that they should get the vaccine.
"I have heard that there are some people who are declining (to be vaccinated) and we continue to have lots of questions from people," Minor added.
One aspect of the rollout that will not fall under local or state purview is vaccination at local long term healthcare facilities, many of which are having their vaccinations handled through a federal program that has companies like CVS go onsite to directly administer the vaccine to those eligible.
On the local level, Minor said one of the primary responsibilities of the state hub is to determine how to equitably distribute vaccines to those that are most in need.
When asked by the legislature if the recent COVID spike could be attributed to an increase in testing, Minor said she does not think so.
"Because most of the people going to the free testing are asymptomatic," Minor said.
Also under constant evaluation is the availability of beds in Finger Lakes hospitals.
"We need to make sure that we have enough beds available...could they become overwhelmed? It's very possible they could, which is why so many now are no longer offering elective procedures," Minor stated.
Minor also praised the health department staff, a move supported by the legislature, as many have been working long hours through the holidays as they work on the front lines of the pandemic.
"I can't tell you how many people have sent us their thanks, they call us and email us and send gift certificates so we are very appreciative of that," Minor said.
But even with that goodwill, Minor said there is another contingent of locals making things much more difficult.
"They refuse to talk to us, won't answer the phone, are not truthful, and violate their orders. That makes the job so much more difficult than it needs to be," Minor said.
Beyond the update on the COVID-19 situation, legislators spent roughly 15 minutes voting on procedural matters to close out 2020.